What separates Apple’s products from competitors? Usability. Whether it’s Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, Apple TV, AirPods, or even the shopping experience at an Apple Store, usability and experience are paramount. Complain if you will about user interface inconsistencies in macOS Sierra or iOS or the clumsiness in tvOS, but consider the competition.
iPhone X and iOS in real life is yet another Apple wow.
For better or worse, good or bad, here are my first impressions after a weekend of iPhone X usage and what it says about how Apple’s engineers and designers look at usability.
Face ID – get over it. Face ID works. Is it as fast and as convenient as Touch ID. No. Not quite. It takes a day to get memory muscle to pick up iPhone X and use a thumb to swipe up without waiting for the Face ID lock to unlock. It works. It works seamlessly and quickly.
Is Face ID perfect? No. Neither was Touch ID. Again, Apple’s idea of usability is important here. Face ID and Touch ID bring high security and easy to use convenience to make devices more secure. My younger sister and I look much the same and with make-up applied appropriately on a similar hair style we can fool Face ID. But only if we both enter the iPhone X’s password which allows the built-in neural network to think of our face as the same. That’s what some of those online videos did to trick Face ID. It’s not a trick. It’s how it’s supposed to work.
Display – now we see why Apple waited so long before jumping iPhone to OLED displays. Google has trouble with LG’s display in Pixel 2 XL and had to extend the device’s warranty by a year. Apple designed the OLED display in iPhone X (made by Samsung) but admitted that some burn-in could occur in specific situations. Funny thing. True story. I don’t remember Apple’s critics mentioning OLED’s inherent problems when comparing OLED displays with Apple’s iPhone LCD displays which were touted as “indistinguishable from perfect.”
The iPhone X’s display is bright, crisp, clear, and fast and you’ll notice it first with HDR photos and videos which simply pop to the screen. iPhone 8 Plus is good. iPhone X is better.
Gestures – this takes some getting used to. There is no Home button. Swipe up from the bottom used to open Control Center but now it opens the home screen with apps fully visible (Control Center opens with a swipe down from the upper right side Notch horn). Switching between applications is different, too– no Home button, again– but the thumb swipe up from the bottom is learned quickly and works well. Until you back up to an iPad which works the old fashioned way– Home button and double tap and Control Center.
Size – this surprised me. In physical size, iPhone X is almost identical to iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, yet the iPhone X’s display is larger than iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus. How is this possible? Micro-bezels, no chin with Home button, and a Notch at the top instead of a forehead with icons. So, iPhone X feels smaller than expected. Much smaller. It also is a taller and thinner screen. iPhone X also feels more like a slender slab of glass with rounded corners than any previous iPhone. The side bezels are thicker than a Samsung Galaxy S8, but not by much and not worth consideration in every day usage. That also means fingers do not obscure the glass screen.
Notch – this becomes a non-issue very quickly. Look at other so-called micro-bezel smartphones which reduce the forehead and chin but do not round the display’s corners the way iPhone X does. The Notch is visible, distinct, but melts into the background within an hour of use. Samsung uses a fat forehead and fat chin (sans fingerprint ID sensor; moved to the back) instead. Prior to iPhone X’s launch critics howled in disgust at the highly visible Notch. Real world usage rules. The Notch– which contains the TrueDepth camera and Face ID sensor system– is a non-issue. After less than one day of usage, I didn’t notice it. So much for insightful analysis from critics. Apple decided to own the Notch and now I expect to see something similar in future iPhones, iPads, and even Watch models (why not?).
Summary – this is the best feel ever for an iPhone model; not as cumbersome to hold and manage as iPhone Plus models; Face ID just works. Battery life is typical for a new iPhone; meaning, not so good, but improved after updating to iOS 11.1 (early iPhone X’s shipped with iOS 11.0.3). Photos and videos are incredible to view. HDR matters. Not all iOS apps are updated to handle the Notch. Yet. iPhone X’s screen has a so-called Safe Area at the bottom and top which developers cannot use, so it isn’t as good or as much as iPhone 8 Plus. I cannot see if there is an advantage or not with a screen that has rounded corners vs. a screen with squared-off corners, but it doesn’t matter.